"You actually have to be awake for a full 30 seconds to consciously realize that you are awake, but the body falls right back into sleep immediately after it wakes up to take a breath," Breus says. So people who have sleep apnea often can't recall that they stopped breathing even if it's happening all night long.


When I'm consciously awake, have I been awake for 30 seconds already?

  • 3
    It's a sort of generalization/approximation, I suspect. There are several stages between "asleep" and "awake". Nov 4, 2017 at 20:09
  • 4
    I guess there may be situations where this happens, but ask yourself if you have been woken up by a loud noise, have you been already awake the 30 seconds before that noise?
    – PlasmaHH
    Nov 6, 2017 at 9:08
  • 1
    @PlasmaHH: Interesting thought. It actually happened to me more than once to be woken up by a loud noise, yet i had the time to integrate the noise into a dream i was doing which naturally ended that dream. Example: I dream of driving in a car. The car has an accident with a loud crash. I wake up. I realize the crash noise was real because it can be attributed to an external event, e.g. someone just broke something beside of me.
    – Scrontch
    Nov 6, 2017 at 11:01
  • 3
    @Scrontch: There is still so much research needed to be done, but a lot of people believe that the time in a dream is totally nonlinear and that unlike a lucid (or near lucid) dream the brain starts making sense out of the things after you start remembering in such occasions.
    – PlasmaHH
    Nov 6, 2017 at 11:03
  • I did a sleep study for apnea, where the results came back that I had zero waking episodes during that night. I then recited for the nurse on duty how a many times she came into my room and what she did when she was in there. They were rather flummoxed by that. I've come to sadly assume it's an indication that my waking brain activity is not all that impressive. Nov 9, 2017 at 22:21

1 Answer 1


The problem is that even specialists in this field of sleep medicine use terms like "awake" or "arousal" with different meanings.

In the sentence emphasized in the question "awake" almost certainly does not mean in the classical sense of Rechtschaffen and Kales (1968), who define awake as being cortically aroused for more than 15 seconds.

Given the context of the claim (sleep apnea), by "awake" he probably means what others call "vegetative arousal". The sentence in the interview before the paragraph you quoted is "And when the body wakes up to breathe, only the body fully wakes up — not the brain.", which is consistent with this [re]definition/interpretation of "awake". Even more so because the more technical term "arousal" never appears in that interview.

I'm not totally sure what to make of the 30s claim. It appears to come form the usual features of central sleep apnea, in which the pause in breathing is typically 10 to 30 seconds, although longer ones have been seen.

The whole interview seem to be written more for the WOW factor than for being informative.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .